§ 38. Mr. Fabricant
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of possible economic benefits to United Kingdom industry from the provision of funds for the training of students from developing countries in United Kingdom colleges.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)
The main purpose of providing training under the aid programme is to benefit developing countries. I believe that schemes such as the British Chevening scholarships will also bring valuable economic benefits to the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Fabricant
I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Does he agree that it would be wrong to be seduced by those siren voices who would argue against providing places for people from overseas countries to study at British institutions of further and higher education? Does he also agree that educational links with overseas countries more often result in enduring trade links? Will he give some indication of how many foreign students are currently studying in the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I agree with the tenor of my hon. Friend's question. There are two main schemes for bringing students here—the Foreign Office scheme and the Overseas Development Administration scheme. Combining the two, about 21,000 students in all are studying in Britain at any one time, at a cost of £160 million. That is money well spent and my hon. Friend is right that it ultimately leads to the enhancement of our trade potential.
§ Mr. Watson
Will the Minister comment on the position of the British Council, which is heavily involved in many of the areas—aid, trade and education—to which he has referred? May I highlight the example of the Scottish international resource project, which is proving beneficial to many overseas students? What guarantees can he give that the funding for such projects and for the other work of the British Council will be maintained in years to come?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I cannot comment specifically on the hon. Gentleman's point about the Scottish international resource project because I do not have the facts at my fingertips, but I can tell him that, wherever possible, we expand schemes that bring people to the United Kingdom. I can also tell him that the British Council has had enhanced funding in the past year for its activities.